Today in the Middle Ages: May 17, 1215

On May 17, 1215, the barons of England marched on King John in the uprising that culminated in the signing of the Magna Carta.

John was nicknamed "Lackland" because as the youngest of Henry I's several sons, he had no share in his father's lands. He has one of the worst reputations of any English monarch, but the very negative light history casts on his reign may have come partly from chronicling monks who resented his refusal to take part in the Fourth Crusade.

John's modern legend as a grasping, rather stupid monarch is largely shaped by Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe and by the Robin Hood movies that use it as a major source. However, legend has sufficient power that subsequent heirs to the English throne have not borne the name John.